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With Governor Brown, What Good Is a Democratic Supermajority?

Democrats appear to have achieved a 2/3 supermajority in the legislature. But will the governor block them anyway?

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Opinion: With Brown, What Good Is a Dem Supermajority?

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The Democrats appear to have achieved a supermajority in both houses of the legislature.

Now if they only had a Democratic governor.

That's a joke, of course -- one I just heard. Gov. Jerry Brown is a Democrat. But Brown's fixation on keeping spending at low levels -- which he reiterated even after the victory of his Prop 30 temporary tax initiative -- suggests that he's bound to clash with these new supermajorities.

Brown's frugality on spending is certain to prove frustrating, and not just to legislative Democrats. California has been cutting spending in core programs for many years, and has been under-investing in infrastructure for decades. In a normal state, the rise of a Democratic supermajority would be the natural time to push forward with new investments -- and help the state catch up.

But Brown has indicated opposition to that sort of thing.

Indeed, Prop 30 is notable for three facts: it's likely to produce relatively little in new revenues (even higher estimates are no more than 8 percent of the budget), it produces no permanent revenues, and it effectively locks in today's historically low levels of state spending.

With a Democratic governor like Brown, who needs a Republican?

Expect a big fight between the Democrats and Brown along these lines. The fight is likely to be fueled by Brown's overpromising during the Prop 30 campaign; he suggested schools would get a boost (they won't, and you'll likely see more school cuts in the very near future) and that tuition would not go up (it will, probably next year) if Prop 30 passed.

Legislative Democrats won't settle for that, and they'll have supermajorities to pursue their policies perhaps over Brown's vetoes.

So get ready for the new political war: Blue vs. Brown.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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